There’s a lot to look forward to as each year wraps up: gathering with family and friends, trimming Christmas trees, tracking down the perfect gifts, ringing in the New Year and indulging in a few holiday goodies (and of course a glass of bubbly when the clock strikes midnight!). For all my fellow goal setters out there, there’s one more thing to look forward to… Setting New Year’s resolutions!
This year, we challenge you to set a resolution you may not have set before: stress less. We’re in full support of resolutions to eat better and move more, but de-stressing may be even more beneficial for your health. Long-term stress can contribute to a number of health problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and even diabetes. In the short term, stress can lead to sleep disruption and fatigue, irritability, lack of motivation and social withdrawal.
Thankfully, you don’t have to stress about de-stressing! Here are 5 science-backed ways to reduce stress that will help you crush your resolution!
Think meditation isn’t for you? Think again. Studies have shown that not only does meditation relieve stress, but it may also change your brain for the better. Meditation may even help preserve brain function as we age. A practice of mindfulness-based stress reduction can also positively affect the gray matter concentrations in the parts of the brain that involve learning and memory processes, and emotional regulation.
If you’re not sure how to develop a meditation practice, start with mindfulness and focusing on your breath. Some individuals find guided meditations helpful, while others may find that a quiet space is all they need. Meditation can be practiced sitting, standing, lying down or even walking, so we encourage you to try a few types of meditation and find one that works for you.
2. Be grateful
Here’s something to be grateful for: practicing gratitude has been shown to improve your emotional, psychological and physical health. Gratitude boosts positive feelings, while reducing anxiety, and can also make us more resilient.
Like meditation, there are a number of ways to practice gratitude, but a gratitude journal is a good place to start. Keeping a gratitude journal is as easy as recording a few things you’re grateful for one or twice a week. Pick whichever format works for you and get started. You may find a guided journal or smart phone app works best for you, or you may prefer a simple notebook or text document on your phone or computer. Whatever format you choose, use your gratitude journaling time as an opportunity to give thanks and savor positive experiences.
Getting your heart rate up through aerobic and endurance exercise is also a great way to beat stress. Exercise reduces our levels of adrenaline and cortisol--the body’s stress hormones--while stimulating the production of feel-good endorphins. Exercise is also a great form of meditation in motion and can help improve your sleep quality as well as boost your self confidence.
You can also use exercise as a great way to treat yourself when you need a pick-me up.. Pick your favorite way to get moving and have some fun--a sure way to reduce stress.
4. Get together with a close friend
During stressful times, make it a point to reach out to friends. Friendships have been shown to reduce stress, Friendships can also help us cope with trauma and difficult life events like divorce, job loss, the death of a loved one and serious personal illness.
Set your devices aside and flip off your screens. Studies suggest that smartphone use may be stressing us out. Smartphones let us stay connected 24/7, but that doesn’t mean we should. The urge to respond to every notification and manage our social networks can cause us stress.
Staring at screens may also cause sleep disruptions, with people who heavily use both types of devices more likely to have difficulty sleeping or disturbed sleep.
Set aside time when you can unplug for a while and work to set boundaries for technology use. Keeping your gadgets and computers outside the bedroom is a good place to start.
As you’re setting your resolutions, be sure that your goals are specific and measurable--but also realistic. You could resolve to meditate for five minutes every day, meet with a close friend twice a month or pick a chunk of time once a week to unplug.
Achieving your resolution of de-stressing doesn’t have to be difficult as we’ve shown with our 5 tips, so do something good for your health this year and make reducing stress a priority.
Sara Vallejo is a self-confessed happiness, health and self-development junkie from Chicago. She writes professionally in a business development and marketing capacity, and as a volunteer for a digital nonprofit. Miss Vallejo is a passionate mental and holistic health advocate who believes that good health is an ongoing journey best undertaken with supportive peers. Sara’s areas of expertise include nutrition, weight loss, women’s health, mental health and disability issues. She is returning to weight loss and fitness following orthopedic surgery and is excited to encourage and inspire fellow Azumio community members and readers to achieve the best health they can.
Main Photo Credit: BigmanKn/shutterstock.com; Second Photo Credit: Lucky Business/shutterstock.com; Third Photo Credit: deathtothestockphoto.com